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Bobcats unable to put complete game together

Offense, then defense, struggles in 27-20 loss to Eagles

Lonnie McMillan Photo
ATHENS – Ohio could not put it all together Saturday in a 27-20 loss to Eastern Michigan at Peden Stadium.

The Bobcats surrendered only three points in the first half, but scored only three on offense. Then after the break, led by redshirt freshman Quinton Maxwell, Ohio got the ball moving but could not get a stop against the Eagles and quarterback Brogan Roback.

"I didn't think either side of the ball played especially well and they certainly didn't play winning football,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “We made enough mistakes along the way to cause us problems.”

Roback threw three second-half touchdowns and finished 29-of-39 passing for 347 yards.

His 11-yard touchdown pass to Antoine Porter on a third-and-4 play with 3:45 left ultimately put away the game, making it 27-17.

Maxwell quickly got the Bobcats (4-3, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) into field goal range to the Eastern Michigan 30-yard line, but he threw three straight incompletions there. Louie Zervos’ 47-yard field goal with 2:33 to go cut Ohio’s deficit to one touchdown.

The Eagles (5-2, 2-1 MAC) recovered the Bobcats’ onside kick, and then with Eastern Michigan facing a third-and-4 with 2:22 remaining, Breck Turner rushed for a first down, allowing the Eagles to run out the clock. It was the only second-half possession of theirs to not end in points.

Starting with the opening possession of the second half, Eastern Michigan’s offense was nearly unstoppable, though it settled for a Paul Fricano 34-yard field goal to open the third quarter after Kevin Robbins’ sack.

Ohio earned its only lead of the game, 10-6, when Maxwell led a 13-play, 69-yard touchdown drive capped by a 6-yard run by Dorian Brown. The Bobcats faced only one third down, converted a third-and-8 on a 16-yard Maxwell scramble.

“I like being in there,” Maxwell said. “I like being the guy. It's a little nerve racking at first and you get nervous with any situation like that, but you have to shake them off because you can't have nerves, you just got to play. That's what I tried to do today. There are some things I want back, a few throws, a few reads, but at the end of the day, like Chad said, well learn from this.”

Sergio Bailey’s 57-yard reception set up a 9-yard pass from Roback to John Niupalau less than one minute later, putting the Eagles up for good.

Lonnie McMillan Photo
After the Bobcats went three-and-out, failing to convert a third-and-1 when Maxwell was stopped for no gain, the Eagles went up by two scores on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Bailey on third-and-3.

“We just didn't defend the pass very well,” Solich said. “They were able to keep drives going and once that happened they got some points on the board and it became a battle. We just didn't get it done."

Maxwell got Ohio back to within three points, 20-17, with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Maxwell to tight end Troy Mangen with 8:14 to go.

The second half was the polar opposite of the first, though the Eagles came out on their first possession and drove quickly down the field. They were halted inside the 5-yard line, though, and settled for a 22-yard Fricano field goal.

Ohio finally got on the board by taking advantage of Eastern Michigan’s only turnover, a fumble forced by Chad Moore and recovered by Kylan Nelson after a catch by Sam Browning. That gave the Bobcats possession near midfield, and Maxwell moved them to the 6-yard line, but Maxwell fumbled a snap, losing 8 yards, and the Bobcats ultimately settled for a 22-yard Zervos field goal.

Greg Windham’s fumble, recovered by Ike Spearman late in the first half, gave the Eagles great field position, but Fricano’s 37-yard field goal missed off the right upright.

Windham’s most successful drive of the first half was his final one before Maxwell took over for good. He led Ohio to the Eastern Michigan 37-yard line before a punt after an incompletion on third down.

"If Greg was hitting on all cylinders we would have left him in other than the fact that we indicated we were going to play Quinton at some point in the first half and that is exactly what we did,” Solich said. “Just looking at how it worked for both quarterbacks, the decision was to go with Quinton in the second half.”

The Bobcats gained only one three first downs in Windham’s six first-half possessions at quarterback. He wound up 9-of-17 passing for 103 yards and rushed seven times for minus-2 yards. By contrast, Maxwell was 17-of-26 passing for 188 yards and ran five times for 18 yards.

Solich said he was not sure yet who would start the next game, but it was important to consider how well Windham played at the start of the year.

“Greg has still played a lot of good football for us and we don't just throw that out of the window,” Solich said.

Dorian Brown led Ohio on the ground with 94 yards on 14 carries. Returning from an injury, he received almost all of the playing time at running back. Papi White also returned from an injury, but was not involved in the offense in the second half, though Solich said he was not hurt. Maleek Irons did not play.

Sebastian Smith had another big game for the Bobcats with eight catches for 123 yards, though he was outshined by the Eagles’ Bailey, who made eight catches for 143 yards and a score. Porter had seven catches for 74 yards.

Though it passed very successfully, Eastern Michigan failed to get its ground game going, gaining 88 yards on 32 attempts. Breck Turner had 50 yards on nine attempts.

Blair Brown led Ohio’s defense with 12 tackles. Moore had 12 tackles and two pass breakups.

“Obviously everyone is down and no one really wants to talk about it, but you got to face your fears and we lost,” Moore said. “You regroup. Tomorrow everyone watches film on their own. Monday come in, watch it as team and move on to the next game.”

Ultimately, a loss to a non-divisional opponent likely will not set Ohio back in the MAC East. The Bobcats still are tied for first after Akron was shut out 41-0 by Western Michigan.

Eastern Michigan has surpassed its current win total only one time in the past 19 years and have not posted a winning record since 1995.

“They're a physical team up front and I think their coaching staff has done a great job,” Solich said. “It's clear, they're playing a lot of young players and those young players are playing well and that generally comes back to coaching.”

The Bobcats play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Kent State.

Additional Coverage:
Photos  (BobcatAttack.com)
Box score  (Ohio Bobcats.com)

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